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Stillwater School offers Monte Carlo Night for independent education

Tasha Branch offers a tour of the old dairy barn at the former Country Charm Dairy where a Monte Carlo Night of gambling with live and silent auctions set for Saturday, Nov. 17 will raise money for curriculum for a proposed one-room schoolhouse Stillwater School, which will be a part of the proposed Haller Point Community. -
Tasha Branch offers a tour of the old dairy barn at the former Country Charm Dairy where a Monte Carlo Night of gambling with live and silent auctions set for Saturday, Nov. 17 will raise money for curriculum for a proposed one-room schoolhouse Stillwater School, which will be a part of the proposed Haller Point Community.
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ARLINGTON Tasha Branch has a dream. She wants an old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouse in Arlington, offering an alternative to public schools.
To that end, Branch and her partners of Stillwater School are planning a Monte Carlo Night at the Village Store barn (formerly Country Charm Dairy).
Branch is the permitting manager of Ronen Northwest, the company that is planning to develop the uplands of the former Graastra farm into a new fangled community development.
If all of Branch and her partners dreams come true, the dairy barn will be home to a school that will be also be a community center of the proposed Haller Point Community on the uplands of the Country Charm Dairy.
Stillwater School is already registered as a Washington state non-profit organization and an application for a 501c3 status has been filed with the feds, Branch said.
We want this to be an expeditionary school, Branch said, while offering a tour of the future schoolhouse, which will also be the venue for the Casino Night with dinner and auctions, which is set for Saturday, Nov. 17.
The school would start with one teacher teaching in small classrooms with strong art and music programs that are based on ability, not age, Branch said.
We are committed to offering flexibility according to the students learning styles, she added.
Branch has two children, a 3-year-old and an 18-month-old. She is working with two other mothers who share a similar dream.
Her business partners wife, Jane Cassidy, who has one 4-year-old son, and Carolyn Sumpter, who has a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old.
I have time to get this going, but the pressure is on for the others, Branch said.
The proposed school would be modeled after a private school in Winthrop, the Methow Valley Community School.
We hope to use the Outward Bound curriculum, but are not sure yet if well be able to afford it, Branch said.
The proposed expeditionary school needs just about 8 to 12 students ranging in age from 5 to 12 to start and the goal is to open for the 2008-2009 school year.
Its something that I really needed as a student here in Arlington.
Branch grew up here and attended Arlington schools, but because of her parents traveling life style, she struggled with meeting all the requirements of the public schools. She attended the alternatives Weston High School and Everett Community College simultaneously, although it wasnt the Running Start program, because she didnt meet the requirements. She said she had all the credits needed to graduate in her junior year, but the school system wouldnt allow it.
My father traveled a lot and took me with him. I learned a lot, but the school requirements didnt recognize that.
Attendees at the casino night will see the barn in action, as the potential music room will host the gambling tables and the large, main space with seat 120 supporters of her effort.
Stillwater School would serve communities of north Snohomish County and beyond, including Camano Island.
I was shopping around for a private school and the nearest ones are in Anacortes and Bellingham.
Branch said she doesnt intend to slam public schools, but she acknowledged that the Washington State Standardized Learning requirements make the public schools even more rigid and difficult for some students.
I just think we need an alternative for those who want something different. The more diversity we have the better we are, Branch said.
Stillwater School would be a Washington State Approved Private School Status, but not accredited.
Branch said that home schooling is not an option for her and her partners because they cant afford to live on one income, but she is also not sure she herself will be able to afford the private school.
It has depends on the private funding, which begins with this fundraiser on Saturday.
Stillwater School is seeking major sponsors to help fund the idealistic dream of a one-room schoolhouse.
Well have a fund-a-dream call for donations that will be used to buy the curriculum. Were looking for people committed to the arts and expeditionary style of learning, Branch said.
Branch said she and her partners first met in May of this year and discussed the concept of a one-room schoolhouse. They chose the name Stillwater in reference to the river below the barn.
I swam under that bridge all my life, Branch said. We chose the name for the learning available in the back eddies of a river.
Branch has already found a body of support from the artist and educator friends of her father, Noel Higa, a former potter and land-use consultant who was part of the artist community who attempted to start a one-room school house for Tasha and the rest of that generation. Also involved was Gary Howard, who founded REACH Center for Multicultural Education and will be the emcee at the affair Saturday night.
While the Monte Carlo Night is nearly sold out, Branch said anyone interested in helping would be fit in.
My dad can stand, she laughed. There will be lots of great prizes.
Admission is $135 per couple including $100 worth of buy-in script for Blackjack, Craps Roulette, Texas Holdem and exceptional food and drinks. There will also be art and services for sale at the live and silent auctions and a raffle for a night at the Shiphouse B&B in Anacortes, to fund the schools art program.

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